Nadia speaks at Divosa Spring Congress 2023

Nadia van den Heuvel: ‘You all have a Nadia in your file’

The Divosa Spring Congress is all about people distant from the labour market, people in vulnerable situations, the precariat even. At the end of the first congress day, Nadia van den Heuvel rolls her wheelchair onto the stage and attracts the full attention of the audience with one sentence: ‘That target group? That’s me.’

In short

  • Don’t focus too much on what someone ‘has’.
  • Look at what someone can do
  • Ask yourself: what do I wish fort his person?


She once worked as a change management consultant at large public organisations, working on inclusive organisations.’I have frizzy hair and a multicultural background, I’m in a wheelchair. I fit the bill. That I was married to a man was at best a bit of a shame.’ Van den Heuvel worked hard. ‘I was earning 5,000 euros net a month, but there came a moment when I asked myself: what am I really here to change?’

Van den Heuvel started looking for another job and came in for a job interview at a major recruitment agency to which the recruiter exclaimed in surprise, ‘But your CV seemed so good …’. It was no surprise to Nadia that the job did not go through. But it did pay off. After the interview, she found a man crying uncontrollably loudly in the corridor. It turned out he couldn’t get hired anywhere because he could only see 40%. Van den Heuvel listened to him and arranged a job for him on the spot. ‘And I didn’t know anything about employment, or about frontline services.’

 

She got excited and decided: this is what I’m going to do. ‘I thought: I’m going to help other Nadias. It was a very noble idea. In no time, I had 70 CVs in front of me. I scheduled all 70 interviews at a nearby hotel and thought: I’m going to mediate them. But that didn’t go anywhere. And I had still put ‘talent pioneer’ on my business card.’

Once, someone said to me, ‘Nadia, you don’t have to be satisfied with the minimum if you want to get the most out of life.’

Divosa Voorjaarscongres

Solve it

It took Van den Heuvel two months of worrying and then her husband gave her a choice: quit or fix it. And he lent a hand and invested in her business. That push gave her the flying start she needed. 

The multimedia company Ictoria, an IT company where people with physical and mental disabilities work, is now running well. She has been able, as she calls it, to give more than two hundred Nadias the opportunity she herself has been given. 

In this, she works closely with the municipality. And then she also occasionally picks up a point of criticism. ‘Quite frankly, I still sometimes hear: I would like to get rid of my consultant at the municipality.’ And sometimes she understands. ‘A course may cost a maximum of 2,700 euros, which is just too little.’ 

What also doesn’t help: too much focus on what people lack. Rather ask them: what would I wish for this person? She herself wishes everyone the counsellor she once had herself. ‘I once had a consultant who said to me: ‘Nadia, you don’t have to be satisfied with the minimum if you want to get the most out of life. Be that person for your target audience. You all have a Nadia in your file.’ 

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